Justice says no to ‘red-flag’ law in West Virginia

As a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators negotiates gun safety policies that could include incentives for states to adapt “red flag” laws, Gov. Jim Justice today said he would not favor West Virginia adopting those policies.

“There’s all kinds of problems with these red flag laws,” Justice said at the end of a briefing today. “For anybody on this planet that would think that I condone almost anything in the world President Biden would be out doing. You talk about polar opposites. Now we are on polar opposite ends.

“With the fact of any law that would pertain to a gun or the taking of a gun of people and individuals in this state or in this nation, we need without question to have due process protection. We need to have a judge to tell us as to what to do as the first step.”

Red flag laws allow authorities to keep guns away from people believed to be a threat to themselves and those around them.

In 2021, Governor Justice signed the “West Virginia 2nd Amendment Preservation and Anti-Federal Commandeering Act” to say federal gun policy could not encroach on the state’s policies. West Virginia’s law describes red flag policies as “an anathema to law-abiding West Virginians who cherish their natural rights and liberties.”

That law says no court in the state has the authority to issue an order taking away the guns or ammunition under a red flag law. The state law also forbids police from enforcing a red flag law “when the person against whom the order is directed has the lawful right under the laws of this state to possess firearms.”

National debate over gun safety was renewed after a spree of mass shootings, most recently the killings of nineteen elementary school students and two teachers in Texas.

U.S. senators discussing public policy changes after recent deadly shootings around the country have been considering incentives for states to pass red flag laws.

“Yes, we’re looking at everything,” U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said last week on statewide radio. “Two things we know that could have stopped it for sure, is raising the age — a person at 18 years of age couldn’t have bought that. The second is a red flag law that we know is working in states such as Florida.

President Joe Biden, in a national address last week, called for consideration of a range of policy changes, including raising the minimum age to possess semiautomatic rifles, strengthening background checks, enacting safe storage laws and instituting red flag laws.

Governor Justice, a Republican, has said any consideration of gun safety laws should be in the context of broader societal changes. Several times, he has talked about young men who are isolated and influenced by violent video games, social media and pornography.

Justice has expressed support for improved mental health access, as well as an increased age limit for semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21.

“I do believe 18 years of age is too early in life, but at the same time we go to war. We go to war with assault rifles,” the governor said today. “Absolutely, I believe that putting a ban against assault rifles is a Band-Aid for cancer in this situation. We need to do is have a comprehensive, big time discussion of all the things that are causing this to happen.”

Justice continued, “To be perfectly honest, our assault rifles are protecting us in many situations today. How many home invasions do we have that we don’t even know about where somebody in the home had an assault rifle and was able to save their family?”

Justice’s remarks about gun safety immediately followed his expression of grief over a sheriff’s deputy killed this past weekend in a Nicholas County shootout.

Nicholas County Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Baker was killed after serving a warrant on a destruction-of-property complaint. He died after being shot in the back in a gunfire exchange with two suspects armed with an AR-15 rifle and a 9 mm handgun.

The AR-15 has been a focus of the recent national debate over gun safety. The shooter at a Texas elementary school bought two AR-style rifles shortly after turning 18. A gunman who shot his doctor and three others at a Tulsa hospital last week bought an AR-style rifle just hours before that.

Of the Nicholas County deputy, Justice said he’d displayed tremendous bravery.

“Please remember a great deputy in Nicholas County and another deputy that was shot and all the people in Nicholas County,” the governor said. “Absolutely please take time to remember those who protect and look after us every day.”


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